Monday, June 7, 2010

Lasting Legacies

Do you ever think about the Bible stories you were taught as a child? I think that I recall so many of the stories perfectly until I read them again as an adult. Take the story of Samuel for example. As a child, I remember hearing about how God called Samuel in the middle of the night. Each time God called, Samuel went to Eli the priest because he assumed Eli was calling him. After a couple replays of Eli assuring Samuel he was not calling him, Eli instructed Samuel to say “Yes Lord, I’m listening.” I had in my mind that Eli the priest was instrumental in mentoring Samuel in a relationship with God.

Recently having heard someone comment on this story, I made a note for when I reread the story for myself. Her thoughts were that Eli, who should have been accustomed to hearing God’s voice, did not even recognize it enough at first to know it was the voice of God that Samuel was hearing.

Samuel was born to Elkanah and Hannah. Struggling with infertility, Hannah prayed to God for a child. When God answered her prayer, she named him Samuel (meaning “asked of God”) and dedicated him to the Lord by leaving him at the temple where he grew up serving the Lord. As I continued to read the story, I realized how there is not much said about Eli’s role in Samuel’s life. A clearer picture of this story to me now seems to be that Samuel served the Lord in spite of Eli.
Eli’s sons were “scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12 NLT). We read in 1 Samuel 3:13 that the Lord has “warned judgment is coming upon [Eli’s] family forever because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them.” How could Eli show Samuel how to live for God when he didn’t even show his own sons?

In 1 Samuel 2:29, God asks Eli “Why do you scorn my sacrifices and offerings? Why do you give your sons more honor than you give me – for you and they have become fat from the best offerings of my people Israel?” We are told in Chapter 2, verses12-17, how “Whenever anyone offered a sacrifice, Eli’s sons would send over a servant with a three-pronged fork. While the meat of the sacrificed animal was still boiling, the servant would stick the fork into the pot and demand that whatever it brought up be given to Eli’s sons. All the Israelites who came to worship at Shiloh were treated this way. Sometimes the servant would come even before the animal’s fat had been burned on the altar. He would demand raw meat before it had been boiled so that it could be used for roasting. The man offering the sacrifice might reply, “Take as much as you want, but the fat must be burned first.” Then the servant would demand, “No, give it to me now, or I’ll take it by force.” So the sin of these young men was very serious in the LORD’s sight, for they treated the LORD’s offerings with contempt.”

1 Samuel 2:30 informed Eli that an end will come to his family and they will no longer serve as priests because God “will honor those who honor me and despise those who think lightly of me.” In Chapter 3, the record of when God called to Samuel during the night, His message was that “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them. So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.”

Eli’s sons died in the battlefield on the same day. When Eli heard the report, he “fell backward from his seat beside the gate. He broke his neck and died, for he was old and overweight.” (1 Samuel 4:18)

What I take from this story is that Eli, a priest, had a place of authority where he could have made a difference in this world for God. Eli was warned but he chose to live a life without purpose. He chose to be disobedient and not take a stand. He died in a way that leaves him remembered for his sins.

He had been Israel’s judge for 40 years. I can only imagine the kind of impact one could make for God in a position of leadership for 40 years. Rather than leaving behind a legacy of a life lived for God, he left a sad remembrance of his lack of leadership.

It leaves me asking myself what I will do with the time and positions God has given to me. I don’t want to be remembered as being a lover of food. I want to be remembered as being a lover of God!

Read 1 Samuel

1 comment:

  1. We have to teach our kids to teach their kids to teach their kids. I need wisdom!